Before last winter, I had never skied in the backcountry, nor had I skied more than one resort in a day. But on an amazing wintry day last December, after arriving at Snowbird six resorts and almost seven hours after I’d started my day in Park City, I’d done both. And here’s the best part: I never had to take off my skis.

Utah is known throughout the world for deep, dry powder snow. But not until you actually ski or snowboard here does an even bigger benefit emerge: the spitting-distance proximity between the Park City and Salt Lake City resorts. The drive from Park City to Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, or Alta is a 30-minute journey down one canyon and up another. But as the crow flies, the distance is only a few downhill miles, passing through some of the most stunning backcountry in the Wasatch Mountains.

The word “backcountry” is typically associated with terrain full of hidden obstacles, tense with avalanche danger, and beyond the reach of Ski Patrol. It also evokes fresh, untouched powder and a sort of Shangri-La that many skiers dream of but few have the requisite experience and knowledge to navigate safely. Recognizing the potential to help skiers take that next step, in 1984 Ski Utah launched the Interconnect Adventure Tour (801.534.1779), a guide-led group expedition that takes advanced skiers through four to six resorts in one day without them ever removing their skis or getting into a vehicle.

My Interconnect Tour day began at 8:15 a.m. at Deer Valley Resort, where we met our guides and were equipped with avalanche beacons and all-resort passes. As someone who’s never worn or used one, I found that putting on the beacon—and considering I might actually need it—had my adrenaline pumping before we even left the lodge. I had always dreamed about ducking the rope and gliding off into the backcountry, and now, as the reality of actually doing it was in front of me, all I could do was grin.

We hopped on the first chair up the mountain, officially kicking off the six-resort tour that included Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Brighton, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird. The plan was to take a few runs at each resort before skiing through established backcountry routes to the next, the exact number of runs and duration completely up to our group. As we ripped down Deer Valley’s pristine groomers, it was obvious everyone was eager to get out of bounds, and we took only two runs before the guide pulled up the boundary line and gestured for us to glide under.

While a few backcountry runs were challenging, most of the tour was about remoteness, as opposed to difficulty. Ski resorts are beautiful, for sure, but there were times skiing through that pristine wilderness—surrounded by peaks, towering pines, and untouched snow—when I had a hard time concentrating on skiing. It’s like the difference between car camping and backpacking: once you’ve experienced the latter, it’s hard to go back to the former.

That said, the experience inside the resorts was just as memorable. Our guides led the way to “secret stashes,” lesser-known runs we would never have stumbled upon otherwise. And while the tour emphasizes the resorts’ physical proximity, seeing them all in one day illuminated how different the terrain is from one resort to the next. Each truly does maintain its own unique skiing personality—yet another way Utah differentiates itself from other ski destinations.

When we arrived at Snowbird and set out on our final run, my legs burned. According to my iPhone app, I’d skied 15 miles and logged 11,302 vertical feet over the course of the daylong tour, including a 45-minute hike (an optional group decision). At about 3 p.m. as we glided down to the Snowbird Center, we could hear the band playing in the bar, signaling that happy hour had officially begun. It was, without question, my best après beer of the year.

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